Flytenow, the Uber-style ride sharing service for airplanes, will get its day in court next month when a federal judge hears its case against the FAA, which effectively shut down the site last summer, saying it runs afoul of private pilot cost-sharing rules that prohibit commercial air operations.
Flytenow strongly disagrees that its proposed service promotes “common carriage” commercial flights by private pilots, arguing that the site is nothing more than a modern-day equivalent of airport bulletin boards where pilots and passengers post about upcoming trips and agree to share expenses.
FAA regulations allow private pilots to share the pro rata expenses of flights with passengers for things like fuel, parking fees and aircraft rental charges. But if a pilot advertises a flight on the web, the FAA contends that constitutes “holding out” for commercial air service, which is illegal.
Now it will be up to a judge to decide who’s right. If the court sides with Flytenow at the September 25 hearing, it could upend private travel by making it much easier to link travelers with pilots willing to let them fly along as expense-sharing passengers. If not, Flytenow and sites like it could be out of business for good.
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